School embraces new mission


Submitted Photo: Director of Communications Ami Berger

The new mission statement was crafted by a group of teachers, students, parents, and administrators to develop a sense of what the community is and what it aspires to be. Freshman Noel Parker said the new statement will be “preparing [students] for bigger things.”

The gymnasium buzzed with a mix of excitement and disappointment at the start of a new school year on Aug. 27. Slowly, the conversations hushed and the Welcome Assembly began. After the greeting and a presentation by Upper School Principal Chris Hughes, Head of School Bryn Roberts presented a speech about one of the many new changes to the school this year: a new mission statement.

Throughout the speech, everyone was quiet. Roberts, with the click of a button, advanced to the culminating slide of the power-point presentation with the new St. Paul Academy and Summit School mission statement printed clearly in the middle.

Shaping the minds and the hearts of those who will change the world.

Though the mission statement is new, the concept is not; it describes the SPA community as it is. “The mission statement is like a guide, a north star. It’s very important in capturing the essence of the institution,” Roberts said.

Sophomore Madeeha Rizvi agreed: “I think it gives the school a clear goal, just having it there. It helps the school focus on what’s important. Then, that helps us improve, like with the new schedule,” she said.

Last year, nobody could have rattled off the mission of SPA. According to Hughes, “[a mission statement] becomes meaningless if you have to go and look it up.”

Now, though, the SPA mission statement has undergone a transformation. It’s quick and straight to the point. Those 13 words sum up the ambitions of SPA. “I think if a mission is going to be valuable, it ought to be something people know and understand,” Hughes said.

Students agree.

“I think that this mission statement is a lot better because it’s actually possible to remember it. It stays with people,” sophomore Elena Youngdale said.

Freshman Noel Parker thinks the new Mission Statement will be “preparing [students] for bigger things. ”

The new mission statement not only changes how SPA students, parents, teachers, and faculty see the school, but how outsiders and prospective students see it, too.

Director of Communications Ami Berger believes that although the mission statement alone will not make someone wish to attend the school, it will spark interest. “There is absolutely nothing I could do, there’s no magazine I could write, no mission statement I could write, that would be a hundredth as powerful as a prospective student or parent coming in here and sitting in a classroom or talking to a current student,” Berger said.

“[Students] are the ones who breathe life into [the mission statement],” Roberts said.

Senior Nick Cohen does not see the mission statement changing SPA life, but also views it as important for newcomers to SPA. “I think the place that [the mission statement] is going to be important, is outside relationships,” Cohen said.

Cohen was part of a committee of students, teachers, and faculty the helped with the development of the new statement.

Berger finds that this committee was “so important in shaping the mission, which is incredibly important to us, because this means nothing if the students don’t live it and feel like it represents their experience there,” Berger said.

Cohen agrees that the group influenced the final product. “I think [the committee] actually had a lot of input and a lot of weight in the process,” he said.

The committee only met twice, engaged in the endeavor. “[We] didn’t sit down at a conference table and say ‘I think this is what the statement should be, or the mission statement should sound like this,’” said Cohen.

Rather, the group “did a bunch of activities to try and flesh out what the ideals of the school are, what is upheld in the daily routine.” Cohen described one activity in which multiple pictures were laid out on the table, and the members of the committee were told to choose pictures that represented SPA, and what SPA aspires to be.

Hughes, along with many others, noticed that the mission statements of other schools all follow a similar pattern. “There’s always stuff about leadership, and service and community and learning and passion. And those are all great things, absolutely who we are, but there’s no way to distinguish one school from another,” he said.

The new mission statement attempts to give a unique voice to SPA and distinguish it from other schools. “It makes SPA something more than your average school,” Parker said.